Saturday, 19 April 2014

Just A Phone Hearing?

Brent Seabrook is an excellent defenceman, a great NHLer, and one of my favorite rearguards in all of hockey. While I appreciate the offensive capabilities of Duncan Keith, Seabrook routinely is forgotten for all he does while Keith pushes the play up the ice. He's an Olympic gold medalist, so it's not like can't play at a high level. And that's what makes his hit on David Backes so confusing since he rarely throws a dirty hit when on the ice.

If you missed the hit today, here is the highlight so you're up to speed.
David Backes was clearly struggling during the scrum, and probably was seeing more stars than most astronomers. I'm not sure why Greg Millen credited Backes for trying to get into the crowd when any sort of contact to his head could have resulted in catastrophic injuries to a guy who has taken a few pops before. Seabrook received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for his hit while Backes' status post-game was simply listed as "day-to-day" as the trainers and medical staff worked to clear the fog he was in after that brutal check.

The Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Seabrook after the game, and they recorded his comments on the hit. Seabrook says all the clich├ęd stuff you'd expect during playoff hockey, but he does sound regretful that he hurt Backes.

Ok, so here's what we do know. Seabrook will have a phone hearing for this hit. Expect a suspension for at least one game, but more likely two games. That will remove him for at least Game Three in Chicago where the Blackhawks are playing must-win hockey if they hope to make this a series. Chicago's second-best defenceman, arguably, will be watching from the press box as one of Sheldon Brookbank or David Rundblad check into the series during the most critical time in Chicago's season. That's not really the kind of leadership one expects from their alternate captain.

This is not an attack on Seabrook, though. Instead, this is a major decision for the NHL and their disciplinary group. On the one hand, Brent Seabrook threw a hit that made contact with the head - clearly seen at the 2:27 mark of the video above - that resulted in Backes missing the remainder of the game and possibly more. This is a textbook case of what the NHL is trying its damnedest to eliminate and had punished harshly in the past.

On the other hand, to punish Seabrook as harshly as, say, a Raffi Torres or Matt Cooke for their headshots in the past leaves the NHL in an unenviable position. The Chicago-St. Louis series has been everything that people expected with its physicality, it's life-or-death gameplay, and the overtimes in both the games in St. Louis. If the NHL wanted entertainment, this is a gladiatorial war inside the Colosseum on ice. And the fans love it!

Personally, if this was a regular season game, I would be surprised if Seabrook was only getting a phone call. However, the NHL probably realizes the importance of this series for the entertainment value, and it knows that removing one of the key warriors in this Central Division battle may only hurt the product if it weakens Chicago for any period of time. Here's hoping Backes is able to return as well. Otherwise, this phone call could have serious ramifications on St. Louis' playoff chances as well.

The NHL is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't. Yet it wins in both cases.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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